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Backyard Cat

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Over the past few weeks, I've occasionally heard faint cat sounds in the backyard at night, although I've never seen any cats there. So last week I cut some leftover chicken into small pieces and set it out with some water. The food was untouched for a few days, then disappeared.

I continued to set out food at night and it would disappear eventually. However, a few days ago, the food disappeared only an hour or so after I'd set it out. So whoever was eating the food had come to expect new food around 9:00pm each night.

Tonight had a nice surprise. As I walked out the back door, food in hand, a little cat dashed across the feeding spot on the patio. The kitty crouched on the far end of the patio and watched me cautiously as I put out the fresh food and water, then waited until I had started to close the door before padding up to the bowls to eat.

I had kept the patio lights off so the only light was from yard lights way in the back. In the dim light I didn't get a great look at the cat, but I think it was a tortoiseshell kitten - black coat with scattered orange and pretty small, probably only a few months old. No collar, at least not an obvious one, so it's probably a feral rather than a lost homed cat.

Now that I have positive ID, I can continue the regular 9:00pm feedings in confidence, and plan an eventual TNR & vet check. There should be plenty of places for the kitty to sleep around here - lots of tool sheds and backyard decks to choose from. But - just in case, I'm going to look into putting a little shelter together.
post #2 of 28
If it is a kitten you will want to provide more feedings than just one. Set the food out at the same times every day. The kitten will understand that this is for him/her. Make sure you don't place the food out in the open, but near some bushes or other concealments so the kitten will feel safer about approaching. Keep up the good work!
post #3 of 28
What an angel you are! The regular feeding times will make it much easier to trap this kitty when you're ready to take him/her to the vet. I don't know where you live, but kitten food is in order even if it's an older cat if you live somewhere where there's cold weather. It'll help the kitty bulk up and better handle the cold weather.

We're here for any questions! And please keep us updated!

...maybe you should think about naming the kitty?

post #4 of 28
How exciting that you made a sighting of the elusive kitten. Good luck with feeding and then eventually trapping the kitty!
post #5 of 28
Thread Starter 
Tonight I put out some canned cat food alongside the leftover chicken. I was a little late, and the kitty didn't show like last night. An hour later all the chicken was gone - but the cat food was still there.

??? I don't know if the cat just plain didn't like the cat food vs. the leftover chicken, or if it was being cautious toward a new type of food. Safe to eat all the chicken (known to be good from past meals), but only have a bit of the unfamiliar cat food, then wait and see if it digests well? (Also, the cat seems to drink only a little of the water that I put out with each meal.)

The cat food was canned Natural Balance Ultra, which is chicken-based - I thought this would be a good transition from the leftover chicken I'd been putting out. I also got some Natural Balance dry food, intending to put out dry food, maybe a 1/2 cup, in the morning, and then 3 oz. of canned food at night. I was also thinking of getting Nutro Max/Natural Choice for Kittens, but the Natural Balance ingredients list looked better.

Thanks everyone for the encouragement! I've so learned much from reading about your extensive feral experiences in this forum.

Hissy, I can do a morning and a night feeding - hopefully this is OK for an approximately 4-month old kitten. The feeding spot I'm using is underneath some old lawn chairs, and there are plenty of small bushes along the edges of the patio. I think this kitten may be from the same litter as the one my neighbor found - see <>.

LDG, I'm very grateful to folks such as yourself who've built up a great thread archive of information and experience so that newer people like myself don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. We're heading into winter here, and have had snow and freezing temperatures, so I've looked at quality cat foods with good amounts of protein and fat, and minimal carbohydrate fillers. Once the kitty settles on a regular food and feed times, I want to put in some GSE and/or vitamin C to help guard against URI's. I also hope to get pictures eventually, but that might not be able to happen for a while.

lotsocats, thanks very much for the support - I know there can be a lot of ups and downs in taking care of ferals, and am glad there's a good network of support here.

I'll be sure to check back in with any new developments, good or bad. Everyone, thanks again for all the info - without the benefit of learning from you, I'd have been putting out bowls of regular cow's milk and wondering "I thought cats were supposed to like milk??"
post #6 of 28

About leaving the cat food, it could be that she doesn't like it and prefers fresh meat. I know my two cats love their chicken wings more than food. She knows that the chicken is tasty and is safe and it's for her. She could be cautious at this stage about the food. The chicken wings I give to my cats is raw and uncooked.

I know you're well intentioned with leaving milk for her but not cow's milk. Kittens and cats can be lactose intolerant. If you do want to leave milk out, buy a specially made milk for dogs and cats which is low in lactose.
post #7 of 28
Hi Brocken!

First of all - Mags, I think you misread what Brocken wrote. The quote is actually that without this forum that's what Brocken would have been putting out, and
I'd have been putting out bowls of regular cow's milk and wondering "I thought cats were supposed to like milk??"

Actually, many cats do like milk - it's just most adults are lactose intolerant so it gives them diarrhea. We gave all our cats Whiskas Cat Milk as a treat - all of them but Flowerbelle stopped enjoying it at around nine months. Weird!

Brocken - to your question. I think kitty is being picky. Would you want roast beef or a TV dinner? If kitty isn't hungry, it'll just eat what it likes best.
post #8 of 28
In order to switch kitty over to cat food (kitten food, whatever), you may have to mix a bit of chicken in with the wet or dry food. For the cats outside, we plopped wet food on top of the dry food until we got to the point when the wet food would freeze - then we only put out dry food.
post #9 of 28
Originally posted by LDG
Hi Brocken!

First of all - Mags, I think you misread what Brocken wrote. The quote is actually that without this forum that's what Brocken would have been putting out, and

Eep! Sorry Brocken. I was in here pretty late...1:00AM.
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
Those humans are so hard to train - I'm a C-A-T, not a C-A-L-F!!!

Thanks, a_loveless_gem and LDG for the reassurance and tips. Philosophically, I actually would prefer to feed non-processed food, but don't yet have enough info on how to do it properly. In the meantime, cat food is very convenient and a sure supply of taurine and other necessary nutrients.

LDG, thanks for the tip about dry food in the wintertime - I'd like to introduce dry food next week, after the kitty first adjusts to the wet. We always have leftover chicken meat from soup bones, so it would be no problem to include a little real chicken in each meal. (BTW I had roast beef on rye for lunch today. )

Today's Feedings

Morning: Put out a combination of cat food and shredded leftover chicken - untouched after an hour, but mostly eaten when I got back in the evening.

Night: Also cat food and real chicken, but I mashed them together a bit - eventually mostly eaten after 3 hours.

I noticed that there were small amounts of food left both times - am I putting too much food out (it's maybe 5 tablespoons)? I'd heard that feral cats tend to pig out on whatever's available.
post #11 of 28
I'm not sure how to answer your question. Some ferals will eat until they get sick. We've never had that experience though. We eventually put out a free-feeder (dry food only) for the ferals, though we had as many as 12 out there for a while. When we weren't free-feeding them, because we already knew they weren't eating enough to make them sick, we made sure to put out more than they wanted. After it had been dark about an hour, we'd go pick up the food bowls (we didn't want to attract the skunks) - and we always made sure they had unfrozen clean water.

Our figuring was that this way there'd be food for "new" cats, but we wouldn't be feeding the wildlife.

We've never fed the cats anything but cat food (although we've used tuna upon occassion to trap cats). Just make sure any "human" food you give them has not been cooked with any kind of spices - especially onion or garlic. Garlic in small amounts is often present in cat food, but onion is actually toxic to cats.

There are many fine cat foods out there that are not so processed and that use human-only grade ingredients. Royal Canin, Evolve, Wellness, Solid Gold, California Natural, Felidae are among those that come to mind.

Switching kitty from one food to another can be done by mixing the foods over a few days time, and feeding them just the one food after that mixing period should be just fine. In order to not raise "finicky" cats, we always provided a mix of several foods, and we changed that mix a little bit each week. Unfortunatey, our indoor cats are now restricted by one's need for food that helps maintain a specific pH balance and another's problem with colitis. So we free feed only Royal Canin sensitive stomach.

Some info on holistic feeding: (Homepage: )
post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thank you, LDG - I will check out that link.

It seems that about 2 tablespoons of food gets eaten every few hours, until it's all gone. Maybe different cats come to eat at different times.
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
No more sightings until today - the little black one from before, plus a larger medium-haired one who is mostly light medium grey with a fluffy white chest.

Just like last time, the little black kitty ran across the patio as I came through the door with the food and water, then froze about 5 feet away and watched me intently over his/her shoulder as I put the bowls down. The grey+white cat stayed even further away; I think the little black kitty may have won first dibs on this feeding spot. Then the black kitty eagerly trotted up to the food as I closed the door. Closing the door blocked my view of the grey+white kitty, so I don't if s/he waited or they ate together.

While I was washing up in the kitchen, I heard a cat voice - maybe meowing? I don't know if it was the 2 cats talking to each other or if one of them was calling for more food. But I resisted the urge to go back out and risk scaring them away by being too forward. Although I do want to get friendly with the backyard cats, I know that taking it verrrrry slowly is one of the main tenets of dealing with feral cats. "Leave the kitty wanting more..."

The food was pretty much gone after an hour.
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
I had some spare time before making dinner today, so I decided to neaten up the patio - and guess who showed up looking for food?? I was surprised - I usually put the food out a few hours later. The kitty ran across the edge of the patio onto the grass and sat there waiting. "Well, if you're hungry now, then dinner is served..."

So I ran in and made up the food bowl and the water bowl and put them outside. The kitty went straight up to the food and started eating. I watched a little from behind the screen door, then closed the main door to let the cat eat in peace.

(Though it was pretty dim, I managed to get a quick photo.)

<Hey, this is my 100th post? I'm no longer a young kitty anymore? :dali: >
post #15 of 28
Congratulations on becoming an adult cat!

She looks like a tortie (I can't really tell from the picture). How exciting that she came when she saw you outside. Perhaps in a few more weeks she will come to the food while you are close by.

post #16 of 28
I always stayed outside after feeding the outdoor kitties. I would put the food down and then sit on my porch, about 5' from the food. Then I stayed VEEERRRRRRY still. Most the kitties were kittens then so they would eat quickly while keeping an eye on me. Within a week they were chowing down and not paying attention to me unless I moved. Then I started talking to them while they ate. I slowly moved down a step at a time from the 5th step to the bottom step. At that time I was only about a foot from them. Now their heads are in the bowl even before my hand is out. If you can get them used to you being in the area when they are eating, it is easier to trap them.
post #17 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks, lotsocats, I think she's a tortie as well - black with rust orange. I didn't use flash so as to not startle her, so the picture quality is poor (sorry! ). Since she was so brave in showing herself, I didn't want to spoil it. If it were summertime, I'd set out a chair and read quietly while she ate, but it's too cold to do that now. I hope she's got a good place to sleep. But I'll try to get some better photos if I can.

Wow, Sweets, you have a way with ferals! I now think that this cat must be at least a year old, so it may take a bit longer for me. But in the meantime, it's good to know that she's accepting the food.

P.S. Tonight was shredded boiled chicken with Natural Balance dry kibble on top - licked clean after an hour or so. So the kitty likes Natural Balance dry but not wet? I wonder if this means that she's used to dry cat food; was she abandoned rather than born feral? That might explain why she'll occassionally show herself to me?
post #18 of 28
My ferals also prefer their dry food to be dry. One won't eat canned food, while the other snarfs it down without taking a breath. I think it varies according to personal taste. Also, because your sweet cat knows the food will be there for her (thanks to you), she can now be a little chosey rather than being forced to eat what she doesn't like just to survive!
post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by lotsocats
My ferals also prefer their dry food to be dry. One won't eat canned food, while the other snarfs it down without taking a breath. I think it varies according to personal taste.
!!! Wow, that's very interesting - I feel like I'm doing cat psychology field work here. So much to learn!
Also, because your sweet cat knows the food will be there for her (thanks to you), she can now be a little chosey rather than being forced to eat what she doesn't like just to survive!
Maybe I should leave out some paper and an ink pad and see if she'll make out some meal requests:
" Friday pheasant drumsticks. Tuesday mouse loaf ..."
post #20 of 28
Maybe I should leave out some paper and an ink pad and see if she'll make out some meal requests
post #21 of 28
Thread Starter 
Today I heard some meowing late in the afternoon and when I looked out at the patio, the fluffy striped tabby was on the patio. I didn't have any other food ready, so I put out some dry and a bowl of water. The fluffy tabby backed away as I came out to put down the food and water, then approached the food but wouldn't eat until I had gone back inside. About an hour later, only some of the dry food had been eaten.

Later in the evening at the usual time, I put out the usual leftover chicken and mixed it with the uneaten dry food. That was mostly gone after about an hour and a half.

I managed to get a quick shot of the tabby kitty - another female?
post #22 of 28
Hey Brocton...are you planning to trap the cats anytime soon so you can get it fixed?? I think it would be a good thing to start planning for it.

post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by TNR1
Hey Brocton...are you planning to trap the cats anytime soon so you can get it fixed?? I think it would be a good thing to start planning for it.

Hi Katie,

Yes, I definitely want to get the backyard cats spayed/neutered - wouldn't want to become an inadvertent backyard breeder! I've contacted a rescue organization in my area, and they will help with traps and advice. They told me that a regular feeding time will help with the trapping.

post #24 of 28
Originally posted by brocken:
Today I heard some meowing late in the afternoon and when I looked out at the patio, the fluffy striped tabby was on the patio.
LOL! We often feel like they should be grateful for the love and food and medical attention - but they often just demand more, LOL! That is SO GREAT! "GIVE ME FOOD!"

You are making such wonderful progress with these kittes - and even though the pictures aren't so great, we can tell they're beautiful.

...since they're ready for menus (LOL!), sounds to me like they're ready for trapping.

post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
4pm - Early Feeding
OK, today being a slow weekend day at home, I decided to put out some dry food early. (I read that feral cats wake up at dusk, hungry of course.) And since no one seemed to be drinking any of the tap water that I've been putting out, I used the tuna water left over from today's lunch.

6pm - Tuna Water Worked a Treat!
Heh, is there any cat who can resist tuna water? About half the tuna water was gone and only a bit of the dry kibble remained. Great - kitty breakfast is all taken care of; I'll bring out the next meal of shredded chicken later in the evening.

7pm - "Yo, waiter!"
I was a bit surprised to hear meowing soon after - still hungry, or had one cat eaten earlier and now here's another? Coming out to the patio, I could see it was the fluffy tabby who had meowed before. There was a surprise...
...she brought 2 kittens! Two little orange tabbies - I immediately thought back to the calico kitten my neighbor had found back in Sept - must be from the same litter - look about the right size for 4-5 month old kittens.

Momma cat stayed about 10' away as I walked up to the food dishes. The 2 kittens, stayed about 2' behind her. All the dry kibble was gone and the tuna water bowl was licked clean. Momma cat must have come earlier and checked out the food for herself before bringing the little ones to the patio. I rushed back in and put out a bunch of dry food and fresh tap water.

9pm - "No, no - only the best for my little ones!"
At 8pm, I came out to see how much dry food had been eaten - none! All in good time, then - so I made up an extra large portion, split it between 2 bowls, and put it out at usual time of 9pm. All food, no water - probably alright for this one meal (especially since someone had just pigged out on tuna water).

11pm - "Are you getting enough mouse in your diet?"
I peeked out to find that they'd pretty much finished one bowl and had gone through half of the other. And there was a chunk of food on the ground near the bowls - maybe momma cat had scooped some out so that the kittens could get to it more easily...this became my second surprise, as it turned out to be a little mouse!

The mouse was whole, but had a lot of ruffled fur - and on closer inspection, was breathing tiny jagged breaths. Was momma teaching the little ones to hunt and they all ran away when I opened the door? Or maybe the cats were saying, "Alright, if you really need us to spell it out for you, this is the kind of food we want, not that dry stuff!"

I know sometimes homed cats will bring prey inside and present it to their human friends, but these are stray cats who barely know me at this point. It would be flattering to think of it as a gift, but it's too early to be so presumptuous. Besides (as I called out into the darkness), "Thank you! Uh, my doctor told me that I need to cut back on mouse cholesterol, though! But thank you anyway for the thought!"

after midnight - Leftovers
I delayed my bedtime a little, being very curious about the fate of the mouse. The food was mostly gone, and the mouse was still there, although now its' fur was all wet and it was facing the other way. The kittens must have been playing with their food out in the rain. Oh, wait a minute - I think this is a different mouse...

Momma cat, her fur half wet, came out to meow at me a little ("Mice are good for you! Would I lie to you? So eat your mouse!"). I figured everyone must be full, so I placed the remaining tablespoon of food on the ground near the mouse, and took the bowls in for washing. I went to sleep feeling that a good day's work had been well done.

wee hours - Oh No, Wet Cats in the Rain
Though I had fallen asleep quickly, I suddenly woke up with an intense feeling of worry - momma cat had been wet! She must have been meowing at me for dry shelter! DUH! I got dressed and scrambled around the house - no styrofoam coolers, damn! Finally I cut a hole in the side of a sturdy medium-sized cardboard box and half-filled it with shredded newspaper. I tucked it into a sheltered corner of the patio, a bit off the ground, and surrounded it with some lawn furniture. Hope this works...

I also put out a big bunch of dry food and new water. There was still a wet mouse out there, but it was partially eaten so I wasn't sure if it was the same one from before.
post #26 of 28
WOW , I have bin following this thread from the beginning and have subscribe for any new post . Brocken , you do a great job wow . I wish you all the luck with what you do . I will continue to follow this thread . I do learn a lot in here . Thank you for up date us .
post #27 of 28
Sorry your little mousy wasn't dead. I think I would have killed it and taken it away. One of our ferals frequently brought us gifts, and we were always sure to take them and thank her for them, LOL!

I'm pretty sure momma would have been teaching the kitties, but with cats it can be so difficult to tell when you're offending them!

BTW - there are some great shelter ideas in threads here, and at the site as well. However, if you want, a really easy shelter if you're not constrained financially is to buy a dog house! Especially the igloo style - helps prevent the weather from getting in their home. Stuffing it with hay or straw and changing it every few weeks makes a toasty warm shelter that won't have problems with fleas or other parasites.
post #28 of 28
Here's the Alley Cat Allies shelter link (requires Adobe Acrobat):

Here's a thread discussing shelters (although emphasis here was on warmth, too):

Here's a great link from Katie (TNR1):

And here's some large styrofoam coolers for sale on e-bay (don't know if there are any left available though):

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